Marriage and Game Theory

When it comes to affairs of the heart, de gustibus non est disputandum covers all the bases.  If you are anything like me, the suggestion that there is anything rational about the way human beings fall in love and pair off gives you a chuckle, and you will positively split a gut laughing at the idea that our marriage patterns can be explained by formulae such as this:  bf i (vi) = ? + vi ? ? 1 +p1 + ?ic(vi ? ?)2 for i = 1, 2.  Nevertheless, it is worth suspending your hilarity long enough to read this article.  It attempts to explain why all the good men are already married.

If we imagine the search for marriage partners as an auction, some of us are more confident of our long term prospects than others.  People with brains, looks, social capital, money, or any combination of any of them can afford to be selective.  Men and women who are traditionally thought of as desirable partners can be thought of as strong bidders.  People who are less confident of their prospects are known as weak bidders.  And strong bidders win over weak bidders, right?  Wrong.

In the marriage market, pardon my French, there is an enormous incentive to get it right the first time.  Consequently, weak bidders will move into the market very aggressively, while strong bidders stand pat, looking for a really good deal.  Those who are most confident of their prospects are most likely to prolong their search for the perfect partner.  In a sense, it is like poker, where those with the strongest hands stay in the game the longest.  But the Mormon marriage game is heavily weighted in favor of early deciders.

Our traditional model, where the male makes the marriage proposal and the female gives the thumbs-up or thumbs-down, places the male in the position of a weak bidder.  If his proposal is rejected, his social capital is devalued, especially if word gets around, and it certainly will.  Therefore, more men are weak bidders than women.  For a suitor, success is defined as getting a positive response, and he would rather get an acceptance from a marginally desirable prospect than a rejection from a very desirable prospect.

This model turns one of our traditional notions about marriage on its head.  We commonly speak of women as our “better halves” in marriage, and it is usually men who say that they “married up”.  But game theory says that many males have married beneath themselves.

What do you think?  And remember, firestorms are scheduled only for Fridays. 



  1. Having grown in a small Mormon town in southern Idaho, it seemed only natural to make getting married one of the first priorities of my post high school life. I started college but at that time in my life, had no desire to serve a mission. So marriage was the obvious next step on the list. For me, personally, it was, in fact, the best next step. I guess you could call it a personality flaw but I don’t often try that hard to please myself but I am zealous about pleasing others. So getting married made a difference in my motivation. My grade point the semester before I got married was 2.3 and the smester after I got married it was 3.8 and stayed in that range throughout the rest of my college career. So I would say that , indeed, I “married up” because my wife elevated my personal behavior simply by marrying me.

    Now, 34 years later, as I live in a totally different part of the country, it seems that waiting to get married until one has finished their education and started a career, makes sense – more sense than it did for me at that time and in that place. But then I wonder about the factors that make us more attractive to our prospective wives. I certainly was more handsome at 20 than I was at 30-35. And frankly, although I had a college degree and several years of experience in a white collar career, I’m not sure I was any richer at 30 (maybe because by then I had four children to raise) and my potential wasn’t necessarily any greater because I was now entrenched in a certain career pattern (although a few years later, out of neccesity, that path took a right turn, or left turn depending how you want to define that.)

    Now that I’m in my 50’s I’d like to think that I was a pretty good catch from the standpoint of fidelity and security and romance (you’d really have to verify this with my wife). I will admit that I was a “weak bidder” because I really wanted to bring that stability to my otherwise haphazard life (and besides, she was beautiful) and so I made it an early decision in my life – one that I’ve never regretted.

    I know I’m babbling a bit but I hope I’ve responded to your question.

  2. Ardis Parshall says:

    Mark, you have become the hero of every 30+ single woman out there! We always knew we were high quality; now we have the math to express it.

  3. I have seen examples from both ends of the spectrum:

    Some men seem to gravitate towards “safe bets” — girls with low self esteem, or are from a lower social or economic class, or are otherwise somehow “beneath” the man (whatever that means). I think that in many cases, such a man feels more secure with a woman who looks up to him and maybe even feels somewhat inferior to him.

    Other men seem to consistently try to date/propose to women that are “above” them (whatever that means). Failure doesn’t matter–they keep plugging away.

    But these are extreme cases. From anecdotal experience, I’m not convinced that men on average marry beneath themselves (whatever that means).

  4. Peter LLC says:

    We commonly speak of women as our “better halves” in marriage, and it is usually men who say that they “married up”.

    That’s possiblly the most annoying self-effacing ritutal of the modern church talk, even more so than the explanations for the lack of preparation about to be taken out on the congregation.

    At any rate, I recently read an article that said men who have hot wives (think diligent missionaries) are more likely to remain faithful since they have what appeals to them most in the first place–looks. I suppose if we expand looks to include other higher qualifications, then women in the church would be well advised to marry down and it would be no wonder that every stake high councilman or area authority can claim he married up–if he had done otherwise, we could expect that infidelity would have derailed his ecclesiastical career long ago.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Very interesting. This reminds me of the scene from A Brilliant Mind where the protagonist has a flash of insight on applying game theory to getting the girl. A group of girls walks in the bar, and one is clearly the hottie, a tall, beautiful blonde. The others are cute but pale in comparison to their friend. The natural reaction of the men is to all want to go after the blonde; but (I forget the mathematician’s name) realizes that if they do that they’ll get in each other’s way, and no one will end up with any of the girls. But if they disperse among the “lesser” girls, each is likely to succeed. Or something like that.

  6. Has anyone read Latter-day Saint Courtship Patterns? It just came out and I haven’t had a chance to take a look at it yet. I wonder if it confirms the game theory approach to Mormon marriage decision making.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    I think there’s something to this idea that men are different in this way. The common idea is that men want the thrill of the chase (think evolutionary biology), so women should play hard to get (see The Rules, etc.). That’s true for some men, but not all. Personally, when I was young and dating I thought it perfectly rational for a girl not to be interested in me, so if she played hard to get I naturally assumed she genuinely wasn’t interested, and I had no interest in a girl who wasn’t interested in me. So playing hard to get as a strategy could easily backfire.

  8. I know this thread is mainly about why there are so many more quality single women than quality single men, a theory that is rather insulting to our single brothers, but I’m going to gloss over that and move on to the demeaning concept of marrying up or down.

    What a warped way of looking at the most important people in our lives. Did I marry down because I married a less educated man? Did he marry down because I don’t have a tenth of the musical talent that he does? No and no.

    I love him. He loves me. He knows that he can’t count on me to sing a capella without changing keys. I know that he’s going to give me the deer in the headlights look if I try to share a great poem with him. If we only loved perfect people, we would love no one.

    We’re all different from each other. Not better or worse. Not higher or lower. Love and compatibility ought to be the measuring stick for marriage choices, not status in any of its disguises.

  9. Singleinthecity says:

    Obviously I haven’t figured out this game! :) I’ve never lived in Utah and can only speak from experience outside the Mormon corridor, but here’s my two cents. Because there are fewer active male YSAs it seems that many men are lucky to “marry up” in terms of a more educated and better looking spouse. The men that do escape Utah without getting married are what I consider “leftovers” for the most part. Sadly, these men are offered the chance at women who are should be out of their league, but aren’t because of numbers. The result is an inflation in ego and the abandonment of the dating exercise. Women are more than happy to have guys over for dinner, parties, etc., why should they waste time dating? The small numbers also mean that we see the same group of people all the time, again, why date? I now see the wisdom of marrying young if only to secure someone before all the good ones are gone.

    It’s sad that we women tie our worth to the number of times we go out on a date a year. I’ve often caught myself thinking this way. But then I have a moment of clarity and realize that I’m an attractive, well-rounded, educated woman who puts Martha to shame in the kitchen. A “10” outside of mormon circles.

    This is my favorite post when trying to explain the oddity that is mormon dating:

  10. Peter LLC says:

    The men that do escape Utah without getting married are what I consider “leftovers” for the most part.

    Well, then, I reckon we can both be glad you are not my wife. 8)

  11. Jami–in the eyes of our Father in Heaven, you’re right. But for this exercise we’re assuming that there is some distribution of “quality” (however one defines that) among individuals. People should mate assortatively–that is, we should marry another individual who is roughly equivalent to us because we should each be going for the highest quality mate we can “afford,” but higher quality mates should reject those of lower quality. This article suggests that our behavior in dating situations can change that expected outcome, which is pretty interesting and might just explain why, even though most pairings are indeed assortative, sometimes you see pairings that clearly aren’t.

  12. kristine (11)

    I guess I’m thinking that this line of thinking isn’t just an exercise. It’s the way some people actually view their dates and ultimately their spouses. And it’s unhealthy. People carry the resultant insecurity and superiority into their marriages.

    That said, there are certainly matches that seem unwise. I remember going to the wedding of a fat girl in the singles ward. Everyone was singing the ‘aren’t they perfect for each other song.’ He was mean, stupid, ugly and he didn’t bathe much. She was intelligent, well-groomed, pretty, kind and fat. A perfect match.

  13. The men that do escape Utah without getting married are what I consider “leftovers” for the most part.

    In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.

  14. Mark, this presumes rational actors are at work here. Love is a many-splendored thing, but when we find ourselves in the heat of battle there’s no calculus involved.

  15. There is a very similar article from Slate last week that talked about this:

  16. Hannah G–
    That article looks really familiar.

  17. I can safely say I didn’t marry beneath me– in fact, even 19 years later I still believe I tricked my far superior partner into falling in love with me. I had little to offer in the money or looks department, and had to rely on heart and personality to do all the work. She said she married me because of my testimony and because I didn’t have the same superficial values and hang-ups as most guys. I guess the therm today is retrosexual.

    That said, based on my dating wounds, I’d say the article was pretty right on– and very interesting. Thanks for submitting it!

  18. Jami–

    I’ve seen that, too. That’s the kind of situation this explains, though. You’ve got a woman with low social capital thanks to our culture’s valuation of women who are very skinny above those who are overweight and is consequently in a weak position in spite of her other positive qualities. Her husband, a weak bidder himself from your description, can marry up because he recognizes that she’s actually in a stronger position than him. Not that he’d tell her that, from your description.

    It sounds like she should have waited for something better to come along, but because she’s in a weak position (reinforced by the bystanders telling her she’s “perfect” for the louse standing next to her) she’s settled earlier. I don’t think you can assume every male is a weak bidder and every woman is in a strong position, and this looks like a good example of it, unfortunately for your friend.

    I don’t think most of us conciously consider this sort of calculus when we’re dating, though you can see vestiges of it in certain Victorian romance novels, where people talk amazingly quantitatively about the marriageability of a potential spouse. That said, I know the things I find attractive in a male are exactly the things that predict that he’ll be a good provider and a good husband and father to my children.

    As Mark notes, we’re far more likely to notice it when a woman “marries down” but I’d agree there are plenty of examples of men marrying down, too. I think it pretty much averages out, though–you don’t see people marrying too far up or down economically, educationally, or in terms of looks or other measures of social capital.

  19. Sometimes, weak bidders can win by persistence, as I found in my multiyear pursuit of my wife. We progressed from really just being classmates and friends, to good friends, to her saying the dread “I just want to be friends”, to painful avoidance of each other, back to good friends, and ultimately to “Why would I want to marry anyone else besides my best friend?”.

    Likewise, one of my sons got back from his mission, and a girl he had dated in high school that he really liked had moved twice, to two different states in the interim, and was attending BYU. He made multiple trips in his unreliable old volkswagen to Utah and Southern California, glossing over his freshman-going-on-sophomore status to eventually win her over, just before she graduated from BYU.

    Persitence pays off. But that’s only my anecdotal experience.

  20. I just really hate this kind of talk. Marrying “up” and “down” is just garbage. If you think you are “settling” or marrying “down” please, do your potential spouse a favor and break it off. He or she does not really need to be saddled with your abusive attitude problem.

    Most people who marry young change a lot in the early years of marriage anyway, and end up being a very different person than they were when they got married. Thus, if you consider that you married “up” or “down,” just wait a few years, cuz you may need to reevaluate.

    For those who marry later, their views of others have often become so jaded by their dating experiences that they make ridiculous statements like the one from singleinthecity quoted repeatedly above. I pity the poor “leftovers” she lowers herself to date.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Singleinthecity, I just read through your Smash link, and I thought it was very funny, and also basically true.

  22. BTW, I do not imply that either myself or my son were “Marrying up”, only that we were weak bidders. In both cases our wives were finishing college while we still had a ways to go, and undeniably in a somewhat lower economic bracket.

    Time levels all. My wife and I are pretty much in the same socio-economic group (funny how that worked), she is witty, smart, accomplished professionally, and still beautiful after 35 years of marriage. She still thinks I’m cute in a craggy, mature sort of way, smart, and kind. I think we tend to complement each other in our differences. No up or down here, just differences in our “game theory” starting points.

  23. Ideally, both parties will think they are marrying up.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Anyone who knows me and my wife knows that I married up, no question. I consider myself immensely lucky. Whether she considers herself to be similarly lucky is a matter of debate; despite her protestations to the contrary, I don’t see how she can legitimately consider herself to have married up.

    This all sounds like I’m bragging or putting her on a pedestal; not so.

  25. My personal anecdotal exp is that people tend to marry people like them. I guess in my circles of friends I am not seeing a lot of cases where people married up or down.

    But then again most of these friends married by 25 so maybe different forces or circumstances develop as people 25 plus get on with life.

  26. This corrisponds with a theory I have:

    1. How many complete morons do you know?

    2. How many extremely cool people do you know?

    3. Because there are more idiots than cool people in this world, it’s natural that the morons will get married first (because it’s easier to find each other) and those of a higher caliber will get married later- because there are less of us, and hence harder to find our match. ;)

  27. Interesting article about the lack of quality men for our ladies.

    It makes me think that might be a good reason to allow plural marriages.

    Now hypothetically speaking if by some miraculous reason laws changed and the Prophet and church leaders allowed and encouraged plural marriages, would you be a willing participant? what are your thoughts and feelings? Both male and female perspectives.

  28. StillConfused says:

    Guess I should consider going gay then…..

  29. It’s interesting that in my earlier days I always thought that all men were on equal footing with all women. But I, of course, was wrong. I liked the part of the article that said :
    “men who are notably imperfect (perhaps they are short, socially awkward, underemployed)”

    Being one of these myself, goes to explain that after more than a decade in the dating game, I’m still unable to “find” anyone to date. Maybe by the time I’m 35 all the “desirable” guys will finally be married and I’ll get my chance…

  30. Oh great, yet another excuse for a single women to blame something outside their control for their situation.

  31. Single in the City says:

    Peter (#10), I said most, not all. There are a handful of wonderful men in our area who have not chosen a spouce for one reason or another. Girls in the area can speculate on this for hours, but I’ve learned that it’s a futile activity.

    I love the idea of being equally yolked to my husband, but there just aren’t a lot of single LDS men with an advanced education out there. I want to be with a man who likes to learn and has a little ambition in life. I mention my education and career path to some men and you can just see them cringe. Add to the pot that I’m more liberal than most, and bam…all of a sudden there aren’t a lot of fishies in the sea :)

    I’m holding out for the “diamond in the rough”, the man that hasn’t been discovered. I hope you find her too Peter!

  32. Steve,

    “Mark, this presumes rational actors are at work here. Love is a many-splendored thing, but when we find ourselves in the heat of battle there’s no calculus involved.”

    You can describe how objects fall with calculus, even if the objects themselves aren’t that great at taking derivatives.

    Thanks for pointing this out, Mark. That is an interesting idea.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    LOL, good one, Frank.

    Jothan: beat it, weirdo.

  34. david knowlton says:

    Some anthropologists have done experimetnal comparisons with Game Theory, in part of test rational actor assumptions, to pick up on what Frank (32) stated. (I am thinking of the work of Jean Ensminger and her colleagues.) They took one of the classical games and carefully controlled its play to be able to play it in many different cultures so that they could test the resultant rationalities of the patterns in relation to the cultures in which the game was played. What they found is interestin in that cultural patterns played out in the way rationality was constructed within the game format. Hence the rational actor assumption for humans is both useful and very problematic.

    I wonder why marriage is set up in our society such that a game comparison seems apposite.

    That framing of it, as a competitive game, seems to be what the article picks up on more than the calculations of individual actors in a marraige market.

    But this issue of rational actors, markets, and such as basic explainers of society is much argued in today’s social sicences. I am skeptical of its messianic possibilities.

  35. Eric Russell says:

    Actually, this Slate article is complete and utter nonsense – and here’s why. The whole argument rests on this idea that women are the primary choosers in the marriage selection process. His grounds for such a claim?

    Actually, no—and here’s why. Consider the classic version of the marriage proposal: A woman makes it known that she is open to a proposal, the man proposes, and the woman chooses to say yes or no. The structure of the proposal is not, “I choose you.” It is, “Will you choose me?” A woman chooses to receive the question and chooses again once the question is asked.

    The syntax of the marriage proposal! The author appears to recognize the ridiculousness of his claim, but weakly attempts to brush it under the rug so he can go on and get a Slate article published that lots of people will think is clever.

    Obviously, this is simplified—in contemporary life, both sides get plenty of chances to be selective. But as a rough-and-ready model, it’s not bad, and it contains a solution to the Eligible-Bachelor Paradox.

    Yes, simplified is an understatement and yes, it’s bad. Terribly bad. In reality, not only is it not true that the phrasing of the marriage proposal designates who the true selector of a companionship is, it’s also not true that the proposal has anything to do with it at all. Marriage selection occurs, not at the moment of proposal, but during the dating process. And during that process both parties have full and unrestricted opportunities to deselect their potential marriage partner. Thus, the game theory applies equally to men and women and subsequently solves nothing.

  36. David,

    Even in the economics literature, lots of classical games played in labs don’t work out according to simple game theory even in one culture, let alone many. One problem is that the stakes within the game are so low that outside factors intrude that the game doesn’t account for. In which case, the problem is not so much “rationality” as it is inadequate labwork.

    It would be interesting to see what Ensminger found, but I guess I doubt it would bear on the narrow definition of rationality economists actually use, rather than the broader definition more commonly employed.

  37. david knowlton says:

    I have my doubts too Frank. However Ensminger et al are working with in the bounds of economic reasoning in setting up their experiments as part of anthropological economics.

  38. David,

    This is completely tangential, so I’ll keep it brief.

    I googled her name and came up with work on the share game. This is exactly the sort of game that runs into trouble because the stakes in experiments are low and the social monitoring very high compared to a real market. List and Leavit recently wrote a piece in the Journal of Economic Perspectives about this that you might enjoy.

    FYI, the share game is not a test of rationality but, best case, a test for the strength of social preferences.

  39. StillConfused says:

    Re #31 “I love the idea of being equally yolked to my husband, but there just aren’t a lot of single LDS men with an advanced education out there. I want to be with a man who likes to learn and has a little ambition in life. I mention my education and career path to some men and you can just see them cringe. Add to the pot that I’m more liberal than most, and bam…all of a sudden there aren’t a lot of fishies in the sea.” I have found that to be the case too. It seems that if I want well educated men who have a desire to continue learning, I have to go outside the LDS faith. Why is that? That would be something interesting to discuss someday.

  40. Eric (35)- I agree with you, but I would quibble with this, (emphasis mine)

    “And during that process both parties have full and unrestricted opportunities to deselect their potential marriage partner. Thus, the game theory applies equally to men and women and subsequently solves nothing.”

    Which person does the initial asking (and why) changes the nature of the game. Since men are encouraged (required?) to ask girls out, and girls are subtly discouraged from doing the same (“you don’t want to seem too forward, dear”), Men are able to select and deselect, but women are restricted to deselecting. So it’s still not symmetrical.

  41. #31

    Its because in my anecdotal Exp most potentially active LDS high earning men are married by 25. If you go to a University that has some LDS male graduate students you will find that almost all of them are married already.

    That is how the LDS marriage market works. Like it or not.

  42. Eric Russell says:

    Yes, Starfoxy, I agree. I didn’t go that far simply because I thought I’d said enough to debunk the article, but you’re right – given that men are more likely to be selectors, it’s actually most likely that men are the more common choosers. This renders the article’s argument not only ridiculous but actually self-defeating.

  43. david knowlton says:

    Thank you Frank. This is interesting to me.

  44. (#41) I don’t disagree, but I don’t understand why most of the “potentially active high earning LDS men” would be married by 25, but their female counterparts would not. [Perhaps we single women give ourselves too much credit? Have I missed the whole point of this thread?]

    No matter who you are, your odds of finding a good match go down as you get older, because the odds that everyone else (i.e. your dating pool) has married go up as people age (yes, I have mad math skills that way).

    I am not going to date men now that I would not have dated in my 20’s simply because of the slimmer pickings, the begging and the choosing, and all that other nonsense. I like who (and what) I like (which incidentally is very different than what I liked at 22). Nor will I latch on to someone “beneath” me (or “above” me) just because I can’t find what I’d like to find. And I have yet to see any of my male or female friends do that, either.

    All oddballs may be single, but not all singles are oddballs. Though we all get grouped together. Lots of great guys who just haven’t found someone they want to marry. I think they take way too much heat for it.

    In any event, amusing post. I say bring all available method to the dating game madness that you can.

  45. What of the quality male that, as a young man, is summarily dismissed by attractive young females. Often the attractive female chases the more attractive, albeit less qualified male. After learning that these archetype males don’t offer much long term stability, they adopt a new plan of attack. Go for the less attractive but more stable male option. This plan -I posit- is not usually active until mid to late 20s; or until the female subject develops an outlier i.e. illegitimate child, bad reputation, bitter resignation about “bad taste in men” etc.
    Conversely, the young weak bidder male, spends most of his young dating experience accepting rejection to a greater or lesser degree. This creates a level of insecurity in the male; thereby consigning himself to accept a lower quality bidder in the potential future market. Then, after returning to the dating market (assuming we are talking about the LDS dating scene) finds himself inundated with multiple options from female subjects ( Remember we are talking about quality males-themselves often suffering from Ugly Duckling Syndrome). Having no experienced with nor ever having developed a selective mode, when dealing with the opposite sex, the newly bloomed and now desirable male finds an acceptable mate signaling for attention; mind you, not necessarily the most suitable or even an equally suitable, but certainly an acceptable one. Therefore, the male finds himself at a parallax. 1. Does he reject this female for a future prospect? This would be a “selective mode” skill never refined/developed by the aforementioned male. Therefore the male finds he is weak in his selective reasoning and cannot wield the skill effectively. 2. Or does his instinct (classical conditioning) kick in; accept this female since another option is unlikely to present itself in the future(see again classical conditioning).
    I would be willing to bet the instinct will win out over the untried exercise of “being choosy”. Therefore, as these males accept advances by “weaker bidding” females, they are taken out of the dating pool at a faster rate than their less prospective contemporaries;
    Thereby they leave a glut of less desirable males in the still available category. Consequently, a larger number of more desirable females remain in the dating pool due to their over-refined selective skill- developed at a young age since most strong bidding females develop this selective skill at a younger age. Their problem being, their selective skills are often calibrated to hone in on qualities not conducive to long term relationships (another downside of classical conditioning).

    Just a thought.

  46. #31 & #39 – What bbell said in #41.

    Just a basic point:

    If people really do try to marry their equals, then the best chance of doing so is before everyone starts to separate educationally and professionally – when most people are close to equal and few people are taken already. That’s before college graduation.

    If women want to “marry up”, the best chance to do so is when they are “low” and there are plenty of “up” options that aren’t unreachable. That’s when they are out of high school and there are lots of single, recent RM’s around.

    If men want to “marry up” and are encouraged to do so in college, the only ways to define “marrying up” are economic (family money), spiritual (very subjective, but a real perception) and physical (beauty). That would appear to encourage marriage to “older, established professional women”, but in Mormon culture that means accepting few if any kids – which is not “marrying up” in that culture.

    Not a pretty picture for the 30+ single women in the Church, mathematically.

    Finally, I am the wrong person to be talking about this, since I married my high school sweetheart two months after my mission. We met when I was 16 and she was 15; I never dated anyone else after she turned 16; we were engaged, with an actual engagement ring, her senior year in high school. We both think we married up.

  47. #9. Hmmph. Leftovers. Double-edged sword, I’d say.

    Dating Pools Explained Succinctly and Quantitatively

  48. Re #44: Sandy, I’ll have you know I’m a happily married oddball!

  49. I have some cousins who have always described this very situation as: If you’re a K-Mart, you don’t get to shop at Nordstrom. If you’re a Nordstrom, you might be able to pass as Neiman Marcus; a Macy’s might pass in a Nordstrom, but not in Neimans.

    Either way, calculus or consumerism, my husband married up. At least this week.

  50. It’s unfortunate some examine their relationship in terms of economics – ie education level, income earning power, social classification, to determine if they married up or down.

  51. Peter LLC says:

    #31, 39, 44 etc.,

    I’m guessing that the “leftovers” (not my term, you will recall) are overestimating the number of highly desirable candidates that were available in the first place.

    It’s not so much a matter of figuring out where all the great guys went as it is recognizing that there were never that many of them to begin with. Mormons make up a small percentage of the population, half are inactive, and most of the rest suffer from some combination of sin and sloth, which just leaves all those annoyingly righteous overachievers who will infuse their spouses with an inferiority complex before the wedding gifts can be delivered to Wymount.

    It’s like going to Winnemucca, NV and being surprised when, say, Van Gogh’s complete works aren’t for sale at the local thrift shop.

  52. Naismith says:

    It’s unfortunate some examine their relationship in terms of economics – ie education level, income earning power, social classification, to determine if they married up or down.

    Actually, in the church I’ve found that convert vs. pioneer blood is a is a source of up/down comparison for some LDS families…they want their sons to serve missions among the heathens, but they don’t want them to fall in love with a convert whose relatives might smoke or not even know who “the brethren” are.

  53. Steve (#48),

    I had a qualification
    before the “all oddballs” statement, but
    cut it out in an attempt to shorten my
    obnoxiously long comment.

    But sure, plenty of married oddballs out there.
    Present company included :)

  54. IMHO nearly everyone marries their equal. If we think we didn’t then we probably are not being total honest with ourselves. We would not be comfortable dating someone who was not our equal. It is not disimilar to the idea that we will sort ourselves in the next life. Only those who are worthy to live in the Celestial Kingdom will want to. I’m sure there are exceptions, and people do grow over time, but I have not met a couple yet who were not equals.

  55. I can only listen so long to a discussion about marrying above or beneath oneself before breaking into song. The time has come.

    Daddy always thought that he married beneath him
    That’s what he said, that’s what he said.
    When he proposed he informed my mother
    He was probably her very last chance.
    And though she was twenty-two,
    Though she was twenty-two,
    Though she was twenty-two–
    She married him.
    Life with my dad wasn’t ever a picnic
    More like a come as you are.

  56. Naismith: Unfortunately you are right. Also, there are plenty of families who don’t want their daughter to marry someone who didn’t serve a mission. It’s our own religious version of the Bachelor.

  57. Thomas Merton wrote an essay about love and making deals called “Love and Need : Is Love a Package or a Message?”. I couldn’t find it online but it is included in a collection of his essays titled “Love and Living”. Here are a few quotes:

    “Anyone who regards love as a deal made on the basis of “needs” is in danger of falling into a purely quantitative ethic. If love is a deal, then who is to say that you should not make as many deals as possible?”

    “From the moment one approaches it in terms of “need” and “fulfillment”, love has to be a deal. And what is worse, since we are constantly subjected to the saturation bombing of our senses and imagination with suggestions of impossibly ideal fulfillments, we cannot help revising our estimate of the deal we have made. We cannot help going back on it and making a “better” deal with someone else whom is more satisfying.”

    “The situation then is this: we go into love with a sense of immense need, with a naïve demand for perfect fulfillment. After all, this is what we are daily and hourly told to expect. The effect of overstimulation by advertising and other media keeps us at the highest possible pitch of dissatisfaction with the second-rate fulfillment we are actually getting and with the deal we have made. It exacerbates our need. With many people, sexual cravings are kept in a state of high irritation, not by authentic passion, but by the need to prove themselves attractive and successful lovers. They seek security in the repeated assurance that they are still a worthwhile product. The long word for all this is narcissism. It has disastrous effects, for it leads people to manipulate each other for selfish ends.”

    “The basic error is to regard love merely as a need, and appetite, a craving, a hunger which calls for satisfaction…Love is lack, an emptiness, a nothingness. But it is an emptiness that can be exploited. Others can be drafted into the labor of satisfying this need-provided we cry loud enough and long enough, and in the most effective way…But the plain truth is this: love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is “getting”, and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. Love is not a deal, it is a sacrifice. It is not marketing, it is a form of worship.”

  58. I love that KLC!

    Unrelated question: Are you Kristy Lee Cook?

  59. MCQ, are you the guy that bought my horse?

  60. tesseract says:

    My husband and I both feel we married up. And we both played it strong bidder.

  61. Have we really reached the place that we take this “bidding” thing as acceptable? No wonder one-third of the Church is single.

    I think that this is the act of justifying high-school dating crap. Boys date girls they think their other male friends will think is hot. Girls try to look hot and sexy…for eachother.

    This view of love is somewhere between an auction-block and a fun-house in a nightmare.

  62. “Love” is not the same thing as “marriage.”

  63. Come on … we all know that at BYU, it’s having a car that attracts the girls. Because no one wants to carry their groceries home from Smith’s on foot…

  64. Eric Russell says:

    Good point, queuno. I have thought on more than one occasion that if I had some extra cash, I’d buy up some of those old houses right around that 600 N. 400 E. area and then plant a small 24 hour grocery store and a fast food place right there. You’d make back you’re full investment within a year. Guaranteed.

  65. We joke … but my last 18 months of being single, I only dated with girls with cars. Shallow, yes. Warm and snug transporting my mac-and-cheese home? Yes.

    (Plus, I was kind of waiting for this one girl to get home from her mission, and had no intentions of getting married for at least a couple of years, so it didn’t really matter who I dated, right?)

  66. (And Eric, I lived at 800N/400E and then 400N/700E. If they would have razed Liberty Square and built a shopping area, it would have millions…)

  67. I prefer the lemon effect theory.

    In it women are compared to the used car market.

    Basically the inability to tell lemons from the good women drives all the good/nice men from the market, and then the absence of good men drives good women to flee the dating market. Leaving only the “lemons”- sluts and players engaged in hookup dating.

    Basically it’s all men’s fault for their inability to tell the difference between a good woman and a fake.

  68. Here is a good book for anyone who looks at the problems of modern love as being the fault of the opposite sex: Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent.

    I recommend it for any single in or out of the church. It is an education for our times, and quite entertaining.

    Yes, she is the lesbian who dressed like a man for 18 months and came back with behind-the-lines information beneficial for both sexes, of any sexual affilliation.

  69. Razorfish says:

    From an old Church instruction manual (dated from the 70’s) there was a fairly odd and conspicuously politically incorrect statement and instruction regarding dating.

    It effectively said that instead of finding fault in your spouse or (prospective spouse), you should instead thank them for their fault or deficiency…why?? Because if they didn’t have that fault or blemish….you wouldn’t be “good enough” to marry them, and they would “marry up” as it were…So the next time you feel like nagging your spouse about their fault, give them a hug instead and thank them !

  70. HomelessGuy says:

    If there are more eligible women than eligible men, should we conclude that women are generally close-minded with a fixed perception of eligible men while men are generally open-minded with an ability to find any woman attractive?

    Perhaps we’re just rehashing Darwin.

    In my experience, older women are 90% likely to sleep on the first date while 20% of younger women are likely to sleep on the first. The sex drive of men tends to decline with age and the sex drive of women tends to increase with age. Again Darwin. Men try to procreate as much as possible with the young and able while women get desperate to procreate when they are no longer young and able.

    Oddly, the older I get, the more attractive I find all women to be even though my sex drive as decreased. Back to perceptive abilities.

    Divorce is so high because we dismantled the social constructs that were designed to fight genetic traits to better raise children.

    Left to genetics, women will date out of their league and find themselves later a single mom, divorced, heart-broken, and and with genetically superior children.

    I hope the human race is smarter and both men and women would learn to have an open-mind and see all people as perfect. It really is all about perception.

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